Cane Plant Rescues ZESA

Peter Glaum, the ethanol plant manager at Green Fuel’s massive Chisumbanje and Middle Sabi sugar cane estates, says at full production, 18 megawatts would be channeled into the ZESA grid to enable the embattled parastatal meet some of its growing demand for electricity.

Green Fuel is a joint venture between private investors and the government’s Agriculture and Rural Development Authority (ARDA). ARDA owns Chisumbanje and Middle Sabi estates where already 5500 hectares are under sugar cane production. The project is driven by Zimbabwean entrepreneur Billy Rautenbach who has copied the Brazilian ethanol plant designs.

When RadioVOP visited last week, Brazilian and Zimbabwean engineers were busy testing the plant before it can be fully commissioned within the next two months. Glaum said depending on the cane condition (calorific value), Green Fuel expects to produce between 2 to 3 megawatts of electricity and 350 thousand litres of ethanol daily by September.

According to company officials, the deal between the private investors (called Rating at Chisumbanje and Macdom at Middle Sabi) is a build, operate and transfer (BOT) arrangement with ARDA taking complete control of all the sugar cane production in the two estates in 20 years.

As the project develops, said company officials, it is planned to introduce villagers into small-scale sugar cane production with assistance – in the form of cane seed, irrigation and expertise – from Green Fuel.

On the ethanol side, Green Fuel expects to produce 500 million litres of ethanol annually in 10 years to power local vehicles, said Glaum. It will market two types of fuel: E15 which is 15% ethanol and the rest petrol; and E85, a highly concentrated variety that can fuel cars on its own without the need to mix with petrol.